This is a Support Stacie challenge response. It's a bit introspective, but I hope you like it.
Thanks to my bid winner, the delightful Snuze, for pointing out the difference between a black run and a black diamond and catching those few typos that escaped my fearsome wrath.
Snuze's request was for something to do with Switzerland (the place, not the Eclipse metaphor, though I wish to $#% I'd thought of that back when I was butting my head against it instead of right #$%cking now). The rest is my fault.
Edward and Emmett Cullen and other characters mentioned herein were invented by Stephenie Meyer for her Twilight series. The German couple belongs to all light-sleeping travelers everywhere.
"I ached to be a normal man," – Edward, Midnight Sun
"In his pants." – Cleolinda Jones, commentary on Midnight Sun
"Is she gone?"
"You can come out now."
"I mean it, Emmett, is she gone?"
"You can't tell?"
"You can tell whether I'm about to go for a headlock or an armlock but you can't tell if Tanya's still out here?"
"No, not if she's deliberately thinking of something else, and she is quite accomplished at that. Now is she gone?"
Even through the thick door of the maintenance closet, I could hear Emmett give a little sigh. "Rose asked her if she wanted to come and hit the slopes ...which is what I was supposed to be doing right now." Here his mind filled with pictures of himself on a ski lift, sitting next to his tall, glamorous wife of sixty-three years decked out in impeccable winter wear. Alice and Rosalie had taken great care in preparing everyone's wardrobe for this trip so that we would not be taken for slovenly Americans (never mind that Carlisle really would have been a slovenly Englishman). We were in the Swiss Alps and Aspen styles just would not do.
Alas for my brother, such happenings were as yet entirely imaginary. Instead of preparing for downhill thrills with Rosalie, he was in the near-deserted lobby dealing with my lame ass.
"Sorry," I said. The light in the maintenance closet was dim, but I managed to find the door handle. "I admit that hiding wasn't exactly the most gentlemanly way to handle the situation—"
Emmett's thoughts quirked. Being gentlemanly wasn't the priority for him that it was for me.
"—but I felt as though I was about to lose my composure and I was worried that if she actually voiced what she was thinking, I might say something unkind."
"Tanya's a big girl, bro. I think she can handle what you have to throw at her."
In more than one sense... thought Emmett. I blinked, uselessly, trying to close my eyes against the images in his mind. Emmett loved his wife and I doubted he would ever be unfaithful to her, but he wasn't too good to imagine other women's favors. Tanya's, he was sure, would be considerable. He didn't understand why I didn't just say yes.
"It's not that," I told him. "I just don't want to be rude."
Emmett snorted. "And when she finds out that you'd rather make time with the bleach buckets than say hello to her?"
"Well she won't find out unless somebody opens his big mouth."
New year, new millennium, same old Edward.
"Technically, the new millennium isn't until 2001, Emmett."
"God, bro! Who cares? It's the New Year, not the nitpicker convention."
There was a squealing sound as the latch snapped underneath my brother's fingers and the yellow outline of the door exploded into the light of the empty lobby. Four in the morning and the house lights were up. Everyone was getting a good night's rest (notwithstanding the German couple I could hear engaging in bondage play in the north suite), preparing for the party tonight. Many of them would stay up until dawn on New Year's Day.
"Emmett!" I whispered.
I'll get rid of the handprint later, he promised. This is more important. "Edward," he said, firmly enough to get my attention, but softly enough to avoid human eavesdroppers. "We are on vacation. However you count it, it's going to be the biggest party of the century. We don't need to eat for another week and a half, and the whole family is in the single top-rated night skiing resort in the whole Swiss Alps. Try to be less of a goddamned drag."
I rolled my eyes. He was right, of course, but what he didn't see was how much I was already trying.
We'd been living with Tanya and her coven since the mid-nineties, and life had been good. Plenty of caribou, the occasional grizzly... Except everyone expected me to be more interested in the three unattached females in Tanya's coven.
It wasn't that Tanya had nothing to offer a man, and I didn't mean the obvious charms that had filled half the male minds in this ski resort. Rosalie might just manage to outmatch Tanya for beauty, but Tanya's character had more depth to it. She'd survived the death of her maker to become the leader of one of the largest vampire covens on earth, and she managed it without changing her home territory. Her thoughts were lively, ducking and twisting around each other like the snowflakes that pirouetted down from the cloudy skies over Denali. I quite enjoyed listening to them ...when they weren't about me. She'd even beaten me at chess once, just spiraled her strategy inward until even though I could see what she was planning, there was nothing I could do to prevent the inevitable. It had been ...refreshing.
The fact that Tanya had been a prostitute and then a succubus did bother me, but I'd managed to put those feelings into context. Not everyone could spend his human life the coddled child of wealthy Victorian parents. Some people had to make their own way, and Tanya and her sisters had taken the route that had seemed most efficacious for their survival. They might have developed a taste for male companionship, but considering that that was what had led to their current benevolent attitudes toward humans, what right had I to regret it?
And it wasn't my business what Tanya did with her body. Except for the part where everyone else seemed to want it to be my business.
"You can't even be nice to her?" asked Emmett. "Like regular nice, no 'Miss Tanya' this and 'good night, cousin' that?"
"I've been nothing but nice to her," I answered stiffly. "Regular nice got misinterpreted, so it's 'Miss Tanya' from here on out."
Emmett shook his head. "She's not really even all that into you any more, bro. Got it out of her system a long time ago."
"No she didn't."
Emmett raised one bristly eyebrow. "Look, I know how tempted you are to think that the world revolves around you, and Tanya did make a big fool of herself when we first moved in, but she stopped after a while, didn't she?"
I shook my head. "No, she just changed tactics." I gave him as clear a look as I could. Emmett wasn't slow-witted, but subtlety wasn't his thing. "Remember when we first moved to Alaska? Well that was the direct approach."
Emmett nodded, picturing rather vividly the time he and Rose had come back from hunting to find that Tanya, in a Victoria's Secret silk teddy, had got me cornered against the piano. He remembered because it had been Rose's teddy, presumed lost in the move. And, apparently, the look on my face had been almost comical enough to make up for his having to sit through the screaming fit.
"Well safe to say it didn't work, right?" I prompted.
"Yeah," murmured Emmett.
"And Tanya has been spinning her wiles around men long enough to know when something's not working."
"'Spinning her wiles'?" asked Emmett. "You sound like Beatrix Potter."
"Whatever you want to call it," I answered. "She tried being aggressive and she found that I reacted negatively to it, so now she's taking another tack. She's holding off, playing it cool. She expects that if she just pulls back a bit, I'll come to her."
"Hm," said Emmett, nodding appreciatively. "So what about that has you hiding in the broom closet?"
"What's wrong with that is that I can still hear what she's thinking and it's all about us doing ...things." I found I couldn't meet his eyes. "In places." I tried not to picture it, but I could still remember Tanya's thoughts. The resort hot tub in particular had inspired her, but there was also the hotel manager's office, the fifth-floor balcony and a rather secluded copse of evergreens off one of the black runs.
Emmett folded his arms stared back at me.
His lip twitched.
His chest started to vibrate like a malfunctioning vacuum cleaner.
"It's not that funny," I told him.
Emmett looked at the ceiling, then back at me.
"Okay, go on before your lack of neck explodes."
Emmett threw his head back and laughed fit to bring the avalanche down on us. More than a few people wondered what the noise was about. An American tourist stopped dreaming about hamburgers and started dreaming about earthquakes.
"Would it really be so bad?" he asked. "At least you'd have someone to kiss when the new year starts."
"For me? Maybe not," I admitted. It was true, I'd seen enough sex in other people's minds to have no real curiosity about it, but by that same dubious virtue I also knew that it would probably not be painful or unpleasant for me. "But for her it would be another matter."
"Most of us don't start out good at it. But practice does make perfect, you know."
I shook my head. "I mean toying with her feelings like that," I said.
"Her feelings?" Emmett asked skeptically.
"Yes, Emmett her feelings. She does have them."
"I never said she didn't," Emmett said defensively.
We weren't going to get anywhere unless I could explain this. "Look, you remember how you fell for Rose? I mean really fell."
Emmett nodded, a smile twitching the corner of his mouth. It had happened about six months after Carlisle had made him one of us. The two of them had gone out hunting together, just like a dozen other times, and he'd come back completely hers. They'd been married before the summer ended.
"You know more about that particular part of our existence than I do," I prompted.
Emmett was picturing Rosalie and imagining that he was the luckiest man alive. I wasn't surprised. He did it relatively often.
"Well that is what Tanya wants," I said, just as his thoughts were at their most sentimental. "What you and Rose have. What Eleazar and Carmen have. And I can't give it to her, so it's kinder to give her no encouragement. If she were just looking for a roll in the hay, I would oblige her."
Emmett raised his eyebrows.
"Okay, so I probably wouldn't oblige her, but the principle is the same."
"Wait, so she thinks you're her one true love or something?" Emmett frowned. It wasn't right, and he could tell that it wasn't right, but he didn't know what else it could be.
"Not exactly. More like she wants to ...try."
Emmett looked at me expectantly. I was going to have to explain this. I already knew that I had angered God, but He had the strangest ways of punishing me. Demons and fire I could deal with, but I hated awkward conversations.
"The change isn't gradual," I reminded him. "It happens all at once. Do you remember what you were doing when it did?"
"Hell yes, but that's personal," he told me, but he couldn't help thinking about it. He remembered all right. Rose under a maple tree, the green-tinted light forming a halo around her golden head. A whisper, and then...
"Well for most people it's a lot more personal than a kiss in the forest."
"Edward," Emmett warned.
"Sorry," I said. Emmett had gotten used to my ability to read his thoughts before even Esme or Carlisle had, but he still didn't like it when I repeated the private stuff out loud.
"Carlisle thinks that it happens because of intense emotions," I continued, deducing that a more clinical take on the subject would dissuade him from putting me in another headlock. "We spend most of our lives as unchangeable as stones, but put enough pressure on—"
"Crack," Emmett finished.
"Exactly. For you it was a kiss. For Alice, it was waking up to that vision of Jasper's face. For Rosalie—" I checked.
She told me a long time ago. It's all right.
I nodded. Rosalie hadn't become Emmett's at precisely the same time that he had become hers. But Emmett knew, so it wasn't a secret, at least not from him.
"Well, we're unusual."
"Yeah," Emmett followed. "So what?"
"For many of our kind, the intense emotions come from..." I trailed off, watching the blankness on my brother's face. His thoughts were steady. He'd never learned to fool me the way Alice had, but I could still hardly believe that he really didn't know what I was talking about.
I tried another tack. "Well, Carmen and Eleazar had a more typical time of it. They experienced a mutual change the first time they..." I looked back at my brother hopefully, but Emmett was still watching me with his usual half-open patience, wondering why I couldn't just out with it.
I really didn't want to say it out loud. The fact was that many of our kind did feel the change simultaneously—because of what they were doing to bring it on. It didn't happen every time, but it was common enough. Carmen and Eleazar had particularly vivid memories of the moment their affection for each other had changed from an ordinary attraction to a true pair bond ...and they relived it more often and with more mental vigor than was entirely comfortable for me.
I tried again. "I mean ...it happened in their marriage bed."
Emmett frowned. "But they don't use a—ooooooh..." he nodded. The remoteness of Tanya's house meant that Eleazar and Carmen didn't feel the same need for human props that my immediate family did. The space they shared in their coven's holdings did not include any furniture that could also be used for sleeping ...or, in our case, furniture that humans would also use for sleeping.
"Well that makes sense, I guess," said Emmett. "Strong emotions and all that. Okay, so Tanya thinks that if the two of you just get busy a few times, something will click?"
"It would take a bit more than that," I said, "but that's the idea, yes. Develop a basic affection and then keep trying until something triggers a pair bond. According to Eleazar's memories, it wasn't too rare among the Volturi."
"Huh," Emmett shook his head. "Never would have been like that for Rose and me."
Now he was picturing images of my sister's face, prim and composed even as she took down a mountain lion. Emmett might have been better than I was at seeming to follow the shifting trends of human society, but deep down, he was still a boy who'd been raised in the old way: A fancy lady like Rosalie was not for play.
And there had been even more on Rose's end. Given her history, she wouldn't have made any wedding plans unless she'd felt something like what she'd seen between Carlisle and Esme, or that human friend of hers and her carpenter husband. And, for Rose, there would be nothing until after the wedding.
...which was where Emmett's thoughts were right now, and they were headed toward that first wedding night. I'd created a monster.
"You do realize," I said, trying to pull my brother's train of thought out of his wife's underthings, "that you'd know all this if you ever sat in when Carlisle and I have our talks in the study."
Emmett shrugged. "You know, Jasper just pre-ordered a Playstation II. I think I'm good."
I shook my head.
It wasn't as if I liked being a sexless freak. It wasn't as if I liked being unable to personally taste the delights that my brothers, sisters and surrogate parents shouted in their thoughts daily. It wasn't... Okay, sometimes I liked it a little bit. I liked that I'd learned fluent, nearly accentless Swiss German in the time it had taken Emmett to learn how to ask where the bathroom was, but I had to do something to fill up my head or else it would be taken over with picture's of Rosalie's lips, Rosalie's thighs, Rosalie's luscious little—
"Emmett!" I snapped.
"You don't have to listen!"
"I wish I didn't!"
I squeezed the bridge of my nose with two fingers. It never helped, but I did it anyway. Maybe the reason I could never connect with a girl sexually was because I had sex lobbed into my mind, daily and unwelcome. Maybe that was it. Maybe if I could only get some peace and quiet in my thoughts I would find vampire women as appealing as any other man did.
I shook my head. Was I actually contemplating forsaking my gift so that I could have some sex, metaphorically cutting off my brain in favor of my...
Well I supposed I had to be a normal man in some respects.
drf24 (at) columbia (dot) edu